Welcome back to the final segment of the interview with Michael Peterson. Here he talks about volunteering and doing what he feels like he was called to do.
HitSongTips.com: Tell us a little bit about your program in the schools, TAG You’re It?
Peterson: We’ve moved on to another iteration beyond that. For 30 years, I’ve been doing assembly programs for high school students and TAG You’re It is the previous one and the current one’s called What’s Your Story? What’s Your Story? builds on the message of TAG. TAG is an acronym for: Taking ultimate responsibility; Accessing empowering resources; and something we call the ‘G Force’- Gut check / Game plan / Get results / Go again. TAG is an invitation to take ultimate responsibility for the outcomes in your life. We invited students to explore how they are doing in taking responsibility for three areas of their life- their bodies, their brains, and their relationships. I figured those were three fundamental drivers in a young person’s life.
HitSongTips.com: In everybody’s life.
Peterson: Their physical health, how well their mind is working, and how well they’re getting along with others. What’s Your Story? was born out of that. There were three categories the first go-around of TAG: body, brain, and relationships. What’s Your Story focuses those three down to one, which is brain. Because I had been doing some work with a leading neurologist, Dr. Daniel Amen. One of his core statements is: When your brain works right, you work right. There are a lot of ‘don’t’ programs for students these days. Don’t do this, don’t do that. From what I’ve been able to discern, there is very little conversation that allows public school children to understand that the driver for everything in their lives is their brain, and how to take care of their brain.
What’s Your Story? was borne out of the desire to focus on an engaging, interactive way to introduce students to getting excited about taking care of their brain. It’s my favorite assembly program we’ve done for students. I estimate I’ve done over 2,000 programs for students in 30 years. This is hands-down the most powerful presentation we’ve ever created for students.
HitSongTips.com: I heard you were just up in our neck of the woods.
Peterson: Yes, I was there for this VFW fundraiser in Roseburg, OR. We helped raise a bunch of money for this memorial wall that they are building. It’s the second time that we’ve done an event with them.
HitSongTips.com: And you’ve been very involved in performing for the troops.
Peterson: I’ve been to Iraq eight times, Afghanistan twice, Korea twice, Europe a number of times, and Alaska to sing for the troops. Over the last 10 years, there have been hundreds of performances for service members that are deployed.
HitSongTips.com: What’s your motivation for these shows?
Peterson: That’s a great question. It’s probably a question that deserves another interview. But after 9/11, like most Americans, I felt deeply moved and wanted to do something. I read a quote by Teddy Roosevelt that said, ‘Do what you can with what you have, where you are.’
I was too old to enlist at that point. I was 42 and they wouldn’t take me. What can I do? What I have is a skill set of performing, entertaining, and communicating. If that can help encourage service members and their families, I’m available. I’m sure humbled and inspired by much of that experience. As an artist, you might make some money and you hope you do. Sometimes there’s a paycheck and sometimes there’s not. You told me of all the performances and stuff that you did before you ever made any money with it. That’s the stuff that survives for every season, if you continue to do it. That’s the main frame. You love doing it. You feel alive when you’re doing it.
In the movie Chariots Of Fire, someone asks the main character why he runs. And he answers, because I feel God’s pleasure. There are a lot of ways you can interpret that. You can interpret that from a religious perspective and there’d be value in that. You can also interpret that from the perspective of just saying- this is what I’m here for, this is why I came here, this is what I was called to do. And when I do it, it feels real good to me. This is what I was made for. I feel that way when I’m working with these veterans groups.
At the end of the day, the real value of being an artist is connecting with people. Sharing a dialogue between you and you’re audience that leaves everybody with more hope in each other, more hope for the future, and strength for the obstacles we might encounter. There’s a richness there. It’s not about the money. For me it’s about doing what I feel like I was called to do.